Growing up in West Virginia, Paul always wanted to be a Marine. He’d see men and women in that crisp blue uniform on TV or during the local Veterans Day parade and wanted to be a part of it. To help and protect people. To be part of a team. However, when he was 15, Paul received a diagnosis of osteosarcoma. A whirlwind of appointments and serious discussions overwhelmed him. Doctors tried limb sparing procedures, and he underwent chemo. The chemo was successful, yet the limb sparing was not. He underwent a transfemoral amputation in September 1985 and finished his cancer treatments in May 1986. “What does this mean for my future? Will I ever be part of a team? Be able to help people?”
As time went on, Paul’s questions began to be answered. He attended Camp Fantastic, a program from Special Love, an organization that sponsors camps, programs, and weekend getaways for children with cancer and their families. It was there that he met Jeff, another survivor of osteosarcoma and subsequent transfemoral amputation. They bonded quickly over their shared experience and continue to be great friends to this day.
With the prospect of joining the Marines no longer an option, Paul moved to California to work for his uncle’s podiatry clinic making custom foot orthotics for three years. Then he went to work as an energy specialist for Pacific Gas and Electric for a few more years before moving back to West Virginia in 1994.
Still looking for a way to be a part of a team and help people, Paul walked into the local fire department to inquire about an open position. During the interview they asked, “As a person with amputation, what can you do? Can you drive?” Excited that they were considering that he could join the team, Paul said, “Yes! I absolutely can drive!” It turns out Paul could do more than just drive the trucks. He took and passed the challenging sections 1 and 2 of the firefighter classes with flying colors, including the ladder operations. During his ongoing 23-year career, Paul became a Lieutenant in the fire department, completed training to become an EMT, and is currently the 911 dispatcher captain. One of the most memorable moments of his career is of an early morning fire when the firefighters found out there were two children trapped inside. Despite the building being actively engulfed in flames, he and his captain ran in to find them, emerging with one child each in their arms, saving their lives. This is in addition to using the Jaws of Life to extract victims of car accidents, search and rescue operations, floods, and fire response. The years also blessed him with three sons, a daughter, and nine grandchildren.
Because of his hectic schedule and working different shifts, Paul couldn’t visit his prosthetist often, and was walking on a hydraulic knee that had been broken for years. This started to limit his mobility, and he fell while trying to play soccer with his grandson. His wife has started noticing a decline in his activity and health. He wasn’t as active as he was before and either avoided activities all together or limited his participation. Cue his longtime friend Jeff.
Jeff works for prosthetic componentry company PROTEOR. Jeff called Paul excited one day and asked if he wanted to try the new microprocessor knee, the PROTEOR QUATTRO, and Paul was happy to help his old friend and try the newest MPK on the market. “What can I expect?” he asked. “Expect more,” said Jeff. “The QUATTRO’s patented valve technology will walk with you, not for you. It allows infinite hydraulic resistances between fully open and fully locked to match your gait and activities. You can count on the advanced stumble recovery technology and microprocessors, which calculate what resistance you need should you happen to stumble that will allow you to naturally catch yourself. It’s fully submersible in water so you don’t have to worry about water activities with the grandkids. You can be confident to play soccer again.” Paul was thrilled to be give it a try.
On the day of the fitting, it took him only one pass in the parallel bars to be hooked. It instantly felt like the knee flowed with him, identified with him, and became a part of him. Because of the QUATTRO’s functionality, despite a torn Achilles’ tendon, Paul was able to return to his full firefighting duties with regained confidence within two weeks of wearing the QUATTRO. His wife commented that he’s walking better than he ever has even with the tendon injury and has noticed his increased activity. He’s even started playing soccer with his grandson again.
As the sun started setting behind the mountains, Paul realized his life, like soccer, has had its ups and downs, but he has realized the dream he’d had growing up. While not a Marine, Paul was a part of many teams and helped many people. And while he was down for a while with a non-functioning knee, the QUATTRO allowed him to rejoin his firefighting team at full capacity. But most importantly, QUATTRO allowed him to rejoin his family with confidence, the most important team of all. He kept fighting, kept doing his best, and it turned out just like he thought it would.